People have varying opinions on taking children to Mass. Some find them distracting while others find it too difficult to manage their kids. A crying room separate from the main area is helpful, but not all churches have that.
Are you deciding if you want to take your children to Mass?
Here are some things to consider.
Mass is a time for prayer and worship of our Lord. We come in respectfully, don’t act rowdy, speak softly, and quietly kneel and pray as we wait for the Liturgy to begin.
That’s if you don’t have kids.
If you have kids – specifically kids under 10 – it looks a bit different.
I usher my minions into the building, making sure they get some Holy Water to bless themselves. We find the pew my parents have saved, and they bicker about who’s going in first. Then, I kneel and say a quick prayer, trying to ignore my little one’s persistent tapping. I sit down and offer him a bag of cereal, reminding him to do it one at a time so they don’t go everywhere. I pass a Missellette over to my teen boy, finding the page for him so he’ll use it. My daughter sits looking bored but waiting quietly.
It’s a bit different with kids, especially when they’re all little. We’ve had the diaper bag, the car seat, burp cloths, you name it.
It’s no wonder people are reluctant to bring their kids to Mass. It’s work to keep them from disrupting others in this holy setting.
But there are ways.
The Church Bag
We went from diaper bag to Church bag when my big kids were little. We needed to keep them engaged and sometimes Mass itself wasn’t enough. While I want my kids to know what happening, sometimes a losing battle is discouraging. Here are some examples of things I’ve had in our bag over the years.
- Books – I try to keep it relevant. Books centered on Jesus or religious books, books about the season we’re in, etc. Honestly, right now I just have easy readers for my 5-year-old. They’re not religious at all, but he seldom looks at books on his own. (These should be books they will look at on their own. You are there to celebrate Mass.) You can check out The Catholic Company for some great options.
- Coloring/Doodle Board – A mess-free creative option for antsy kids is coloring. Crayons work fine but I favor Color Wonder as the markers can’t break like crayons and they won’t mark anything else up. Mess-free doodle boards like these are also a great option. The doodle board is my little guy’s favorite. We’ve also used this Double Doodle Board before they could hold pens.
- Plushies – You can’t go wrong with a favorite plushie toy. They’re soft, they can cuddle, and they can play quietly with them. Just make sure it doesn’t make noise.
- Snacks – My kids have found ways to spill the “spill-proof” containers by trying to grab a fistful. We keep it simple to easy, bite-size, cereal in a small sealed bag. When it’s out, it’s out.
- Water – A small bottle of water is allowed, but no more. He has to go potty before we go to Mass too. For this little one, it’s not an issue. For my older kids, I couldn’t allow it. They had to go too often. Use your judgment.
- Small, Quiet Toys – We’ve had dinosaurs, soft cars, and little people. As long as it’s only a few, they were allowed to bring them. Nothing could be big or make noise. If they banged it, we took it away. Again, use your judgment.
I used different methods for each of my kids. But here’s a compilation of some ideas to help your kiddo get through Mass without too many distractions. Use what works for you and toss the rest.
- Have a Prayer Plan. Go into Mass with a plan of who you want to pray for. “Let’s pray for Daddy since he can’t join us today.” “Let’s pray for Papa to feel better soon.” Those little voices go straight to heaven and it builds confidence in prayer from a young age. It also engages them longer.
- Sit up front. This might be the most direct way to get kids engaged at Mass. They are right there before the Lord. You can explain what’s happening each step along the way. “Look, our priest is going to open the Tabernacle where Jesus is. Let’s kneel for Him.” They can see and hear much better up front.
- Bring the readings down for them. Some readings are complicated. After all, they’re understanding is not the same as an adult’s, and their Bible knowledge is still small. Whisper the stories to them during the readings. You may need to recap the homily as well later.
- Tell them why. There are so many things we do in Mass that even adults don’t understand. Teach them it’s okay to ask questions. If you can answer quietly at that time, do so. But also teach them to hold their questions for a time you’re not praying. If you don’t know the answer, don’t be afraid to say, “Hey, that’s a good question. Let’s ask after Mass.” Teaching them that you’re learning too is encouraging.
- Recap after Mass. Talk to them about the sermon, the readings, the liturgical colors, all of it. It’s not about getting through Mass but learning from Mass. Soon, they’ll start paying attention to things to talk about.
Bring the Children to Mass!
Jesus wants us to bring our children to Mass (Matthew 19:14).
It’s been said, “If the Church isn’t crying, it’s dying.” Don’t be afraid to let them be heard. Of course, if it’s a meltdown, you might want to step out, but a few noises to be expected of children are fine.
Most people are welcoming to families and those who aren’t are few are far between. Find support, be prepared, and talk to your kids to help engage them in Mass. Be engaged yourself as much as you can. It’s not easy with littles, but when they see you praying, they will start to imitate you.
Church is a growing community. It’s not just for old people and singles; it’s for everyone.
See you Sunday.